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This 12-Year-Old Palestinian Girl Was Just Released After Two Months In Jail

Dima Al-Wawi pleaded guilty in February to attempting to stab an Israeli soldier.

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She was arrested in February near a Jewish settlement called Karmei Tzur, near Hebron in the West Bank. When a knife was found in her bag, she was accused of attempting to stab an Israeli soldier.

Majdi Mohammed / AP

After a plea deal in which she pleaded guilty to attempted murder and possession of a knife, Israeli military authorities quickly sentenced her to four and a half months in prison and a fine of 8,000 shekels ($2,000).

That sentence was reduced by six weeks due to her age, Assaf Librati, an Israeli prison service spokesman, told Israeli media last week.

Jaafar Ashtiyeh / AFP / Getty Images

“Prison is not a place for a small child,” said Abeer Baker, one of the Palestinian girl's lawyers, according to the Times of Israel. “If it were a Jewish girl, she wouldn’t stay in prison for even one hour because it is forbidden according to the Israeli law.”


Once home and eating her "first ice cream cone in months," Dima told the New York Times that she had definitely intended to kill the Israeli guard stationed outside the settlement.

Nasser Shiyoukhi / AP

“I was dreaming that I was going to be martyred,” she told the Times. The newspaper also cited her as saying she "had been influenced by other young Palestinians who stabbed or tried to stab Israeli soldiers and civilians."

Dima also told the Times that she'd been "yelled at during her interrogation and attended six court sessions with her feet in shackles, causing her to develop a limp. Prison itself, she said, was fine because she was allowed to play with other incarcerated girls."

Dima is one of many Palestinian minors to have served time in prison. As of February, there were 438 Palestinian minors — including 14-year-old Malak al-Khatib, who was released just days before Dima's release — imprisoned for security-related offenses, according to Israeli Prison Service statistics. Five of them were under the age of 14.

Dima's case — which came towards the end of a spike in violence that neither Israeli nor Palestinian leaders seemed able to curtail — and others like hers drew international attention to the disparity between Israeli and Palestinian youth in terms of punishment for crimes committed as a minor.

Majdi Mohammed / AP

While Israeli youth under 14 can't be given prison sentences under civil law, military law allows for Palestinian children as young as twelve to be placed in jail.

Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

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